Germany and Belgium appear to be on the verge of tightening their lockdowns and EU leaders have canceled plans to meet in person as coronavirus infection rates continue to rise across Europe.
Ahead of a video conference on Monday from Germany’s national and regional leaders, the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases reported that case levels had exceeded a key marker.
The number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants reached 103.9 on Sunday, the institute said, above the threshold of 100 from which it is estimated that intensive care units in Germany will no longer be able to face.
A face-to-face summit of EU heads of state and government, scheduled for Thursday in Brussels, was canceled on Sunday. Leaders will instead discuss the new wave of coronavirus cases via video conference. A spokesperson said the decision was taken following the surge in Covid-19 cases in member states.
Politicians across Europe voiced concerns over the weekend about the ability of their health systems to cope with the seemingly inevitable third wave of infection.
Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke on Sunday spoke of the need for additional measures as the country was in a difficult second national lockdown since November.
We have set ourselves a very important ambition by fully opening schools after Easter and dealing from May 1, said Vandenbroucke. With this increase in contamination, there is a risk of not achieving these goals. It is not impossible. To ensure our goals, additional measures are necessary.
On average, 3,438 people tested positive per day in Belgium between March 10 and 16, an increase of 36% compared to the previous week.
Romania recorded its highest number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care on Sunday after reporting its highest number of infections for three months last week.
Prime Minister Florin Ctu nevertheless insisted that a strict national lockdown would not be implemented. A lot of people are wondering if we will end up locked out again. My very clear answer is no, he said.
Turkey’s health ministry reported an infection rate of more than 251 cases per 100,000 in Istanbul, the country’s largest city, up 41% from last week.
The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced last week that newly authorized dining in restaurants would continue for a long time despite the rising infection rate, but he also warned that stricter measures could be reinstated.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote in the To Vima newspaper on Sunday that he was ready to requisition doctors from the private sector to help the public health system given the risk of overflowing hospitals. The government has already called on doctors in the private sector to offer their services, but only 55 have volunteered out of the 200 required. Mitsotakis said cooperation was always better at first and forcing doctors to offer their services was not enough. We must inspire them to do so, he wrote.
Despite the worrying medical situation, the government announced on Friday its intention to reopen the Acropolis of Athens and other ancient sites. He remains determined to relaunch the tourist season by mid-May.
EU leaders are expected to discuss how the bloc’s vaccination strategy can be improved on Thursday, given the relatively slow rollout. Member states had administered 10.4 doses per 100 inhabitants on Saturday, compared to 42.7 in the UK.
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